Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day 32 - Crawford to Boghead (20.5 miles)

The road out of Crawford was much the same as the one I came in on, in that nothing seemed to use the road, no one was around, and I passed 1 cyclist again.

Leaving the excellent Holmlands Country House (not Holmelands as I previously put) I decided it was going to be a headphones day. I was delighted that not only was it dry but the wind had dropped to near nothing. A T-Shirt day. Headphones and t-shirt. Great.

The only interesting thing up until the 10th mile today was a two seater open carriage with 2 wheels, being drawn by a single horse. I'm not sure what they're called (a Stanhope?) The driver and passenger were just taking the horse for a run out and chose to turn around in front of me. They then disappeared into the distance. Pretty uninteresting until about a half hour after this event. I was answering a text, head down, headphones in, largely oblivious to the World around me. I glanced up and to my utter surprise the horse pulling the carriage was running straight towards me. The carriage was still being pulled but it was on it's side, dragging behind the frightened horse. I put my hands up to try stopping the horse but I'm no horse whisperer. It was trying to gallop but was being slowed by the carriage smashing around behind it. It wasnt interested in me, it just wanted to get away from the noise behind it. I decided very quickly that getting out of the way would probably be my best bet in this situation. I legged it up a bank and the commotion barrelled pass me.

I did call 999 (who else would you call?) because the out of control horse and cart were heading toward the motorway. As I tried to explain the situation to the emergency services I saw that the horse was being brought back under control off on the distance. Disaster averted, I advised the authorities and moved on.

The scenery is starting to become more picturesque and undulating. I've also noticed the traffic is thinning out. I know I have Glasgow to go through but already I can go a few miles and see no one. The few people I do see have all said how amazing the scenery is 'up there' so I'm really looking forward to indulging in delightful Scotland.

My only issue that I'm experiencing at the moment is the pain in my feet. The rest of my body seems to have got used to the extra work and extra load I have put it under but my feet... ouch! I think it has something to do with the fact my shoes are just about worn out. I have a second pair but they are very hard soled so both pairs ate giving my feet a battering. Still, Glasgow beckons and the promise of new 'treads'. I can't wait! The pain killers just don't work at the moment.

Tomorrow I stride into the last large populated area, Glasgow.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Day 31 - Dinwoodie to Crawford (24.5 miles)

So here I am, one month down the line and many many miles walked. I've crossed a country border and a lot of county boundaries. It's been tough, enjoyable, educational, and worth it but it's not over yet.

Today I dared to think of counting down to the finish line. Glasgow is fast approaching. From there it's approximately 100 miles to Fort William, then from there it's approximately 180 miles to the finish. So I'm thinking it's about 330 miles to go. That's approximately 17 or 18 days.

The reason I've made these calculations is because I've had the time to make them. The stretch of the journey I covered today is notorious as being void of any real interest. Indeed I was passed by just one cyclist. She commented I was a quick Walker. This comment is what spurred me to think of my original predicted end date (30th September) and look at when I will complete my challenge. I'm excited by the prospect of completion but I'm also very aware there is plenty to do. There's some big hills up here!

I got a Scottish rinse and blow dry again today. It seems I've chosen to do this walk during one of the wettest summers we've seen for some time.

As far as equipment is concerned I have been incredibly impressed with a Rohan jacket, my Icebreaker tops, and a pair of Rohan light weight trousers. For kit to be this light weight and yet keep the Scottish winds out, and me warm, is awesome. I'll do a kit run down after I've finished the challenge but these items have been great.

The small village I find myself in (Crawford) is fantastic. Everyone is extremely friendly and willing to help. I dropped into the local shop hoping the post office that was also in there, was open. It wasn't but the employees bent over backwards to help out. Just really helpful people and nice to boot.

When I arrived at Holmelands Country House the owners were very quick to stick a pot of tea on and light a fire for me. Yes, a fire is needed here! I cannot believe we're in Summer. We supped tea and chatted, I got to 'debrief' with someone which is fantastic.

I've just eaten a big meal at the local eatery and am now ready for a snooze. I slept much better last night and it showed in my time for covering the 24.5 miles - 8 hours exactly. I'm happy with that.

I'm not entirely sure where I'll be tomorrow evening but you can guarantee it'll be 20 ish miles north ish from here. Fingers crossed for dry weather (the wind wasn't too bad today. Thanks for the tip Barry)

Monday, 29 August 2011

Day 30 - Kirkpatrick Fleming to Dinwoodie (18.8 miles)

A shortish day today but needs must. I will be doing more like 24 miles tomorrow.

I couldn't get to sleep last night. I'd snoozed for an hour during the afternoon so I struggled to get to sleep. Consequently today I am in pain as I've had little 'healing' time. No matter, the show must go on!

I tried haggis at breakfast. I'd never had this before and I approached it like it was a pate. I'm not sure what the consistency, look, smell, etc should be of haggis but treating it like a fine pate worked for me.... and I live to tell the tale.

Today, as most of the days from here until Glasgow, was a B road (service road) slog. If I thought the wind was bad yesterday then I knew nothing. A NW wind was blowing in my face the whole of today which made the going uncomfortable. Head down, one foot in front of the other, I ploughed on.

Nothing really to report today. I stopped in Lockerbie fir a quick bite to eat but, apart from the small amount of people thy graced the streets there, I saw only cyclists.

One cyclist did stop to chat and advised me I was wearing the wrong shoes for the west highland way. I explained that the "new" shoes were due to be changed in Glasgow,

I did see a tractor! No ordinary tractor. This one was small, fast, clean, and had adverts saying "long way up - Lands End to John O'Groats" all over it. Well at least I was heading in the right direction.

Just a short entry today as I am beat!

Tomorrow is a long day to Crawford. Hopefully sleep will be easy to come by tonight and I'm also hoping tomorrow the wind dies down (or is 'gale force' standard for Scotland?)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Day 29 - Carlisle to Kirkpatrick Fleming (13 miles)

After yesterday's surreal day it was nice to have an 'easy' day. A light stroll to Scotland. Not often one gets to say that!

I set off from Carlisle, which was an eerie ghost town and headed yet again Northwards. Obviously Sundays are still a day of rest in these parts. I liked it.

I hit the outskirts of Carlisle and the mood of the weather shifted. It turned more menacing and in the words of Paul Hogan "it was windy enough to blow the dog off his chain". The landlady of my previous nights lodgings had told me how End to End cyclists go up the country because it's easier with the prevailing winds. I'd also seen a headline of a paper this morning that read "quicker to walk: traffic chaos". I contest both of these statements.

I caught up with a fellow Walker along the way. He was from Düsseldorf and for the last 11 years had been making his way around Great Britains coast line. He'd started in the South East and our paths had intersected at this point in time. Bernhardt and I walked and talked. He'd seen masses of Europe both walking and touring in a car. It told me what I had already worked out on this challenge - you don't need to do it all in one go!

We continued into a welcoming Scotland and the first town of Scotland, Gretna. This was Bernhardt's final day of his 'holiday' and leg of of his journey so we did what any self-respecting person would do and celebrated. Into the nearest public house for a congratulatory beer. We sat next to a couple, Pam Green and Terry Armitage, who chatted with us. On hearing what I was doing, and why, Pam and Terry donated to the appeal. I swear I am not press-ganging people into giving money! These are just kind people. Terry also donned a fine royal blue bowler hat when he left - a true eccentric.

Bernhardt and I also had to leave. He to the train station, and I onwards to today's destination. We parted company. It had been good to have someone to talk to. My Camino had provided yet again. I hope to catch up with Bernhardt again one day to hear more of his tales.

I now sit feasting on some good food before a good rest.

Tomorrow I venture forth into Scotland and hope for less of a gale about the place!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Day 28 - Penrith to Carlisle (18 miles)

18 miles!! What is this? A day off?

As I head North my family are trying to plan my route based on B&B's so I may occasionally drop below 20 miles from here on in. To compensate for the lack of miles I really pushed myself hard today. You have to take into consideration that I am carrying 35+ lbs on my back and I have over 500 miles in my weary legs so far. Hence pushing myself meant getting up to a heady speed of 4 mph for 30 minutes today. That 30 minutes hurt like hell I can tell you! The rest of the time I am usually dragging along at about 3 mph and trying not to think of where it hurts.

Going back to the start of the day and I left Penrith at bang on 9am. This may be a weekend but for me it was just another day out clocking up the mileage.

I'd decided that I would be pushing hard today so I stuck my headphones in and turned on the iPod. My choice of album was not the best. Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. A good album but it conjures up some very strong memories for me. So ensued a few hours (with some songs on repeat) of me having to wear sunglasses to hide my eyes. A grown man(?) crying is not pretty. I've found that being out on the road day after day, punishing your body does make you feel good but also makes you very emotional!

With thoughts of past relationships, my Dad's condition, and my daughter all swimming around my head I decided I'd just go with whatever feelings came to me. If ever there was going to be a time to iron out my emotions, now was that time. I felt extreme emotions swaying from happiness to sadness to worry and then back to happiness. I just let everything go and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I was pushing myself harder and harder so the bad feelings didn't drag me down. I was really wrestling with things when all of a sudden an impossibly massive Mark Knopfler appeared over the horizon smashing out the guitar riff for Money For Nothing... I'd gone mad.

Whatever had just happened my brain was done with the bad feelings and had switched instead to "music video" mode. I imagined the gargantuan Knopfler and equally huge Guy Fletcher using the scenery as their stage, playing just for me.

I seriously thought for a second that the madness had come but it was extremely funny to me how ridiculous the sway from being down to being back in the game occurred. Our brain's are complex bits of kit and letting mine try and sort itself out had just worked. It had taken all the sad elements of what was 'up there' and basically taken what it could from my surroundings (in this case Dire Straits) and squashed/played out the sadness. I was happy, and sane, once again. No need to call the men in White coats.

There was another good reason for going fast today. Wolves were playing Aston Villa away and it was being aired on TV. I'd done a bit of homework and there was a pub I could reach by 12:30 at best if I went fast. I would miss some of the start of the game but I'd still get to see a good chunk of it. The pub was The Rose and Crown just outside of Carlisle. I'd timed it impeccably. My feet were screaming at me to stop and I thought with about 100 meters to go of a nice cool drink, me sat on a cushioned seat, sat in front of a big screen watching my team playing the glorious game.


My homework hadn't extended to seeing if the pub was open let alone showing any sport. Oh well, it was probably for the best. Instead I made do with reading updates on my phone. This passed the time and took my mind off of the pain in my feet.

Before I knew it I was in Carlisle. This is the earliest I've finished a day so far. I'd done 18 miles in a little over five and a quarter hours. Averaged out this was about 3.4 mph and all other days I've only managed to average around 2.7 mph. It had been a crazy day but I think I broke the back of a lot of emotional baggage and in double quick time!

Tomorrow is a rest day but following from last weekends successful 'short walk' I will be doing a 10 miler to cross the border to Gretna (no marriage) and into Bonnie Scotland!

Oh and today I passed 500 miles. If anyone can verify that?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Day 27 - Tebay to Penrith (20 miles)

I left Tebay early and the RAF must have heard because they did a fly-by just as I was leaving. Very good of them to give me the nod.

It comes to this time of the week and I struggle. Today was no different. I've bruised the soft tissue on my heel of my left foot which means the bodies natural reaction is to only allow you to walk flat footed. This strains everywhere else and after 8 hours of walking you can guarantee pain. Even though my heel hurt like hell I just kept saying to myself "it will heal, it will heal". Eventually the pain subsided as the bodies natural pain killers took hold.

I tried to take my mind off of the niggles by doing maths in my head. I often give myself problems to solve to pass the time. If it takes me X amount of minutes to walk 20 paces, how far in miles would I walk in 10 hours? For example. Jumbled up questions that need sorting first. I puzzled for what seemed like a good 50 minutes or so then o checked my Garmin to see how long it had been since I last looked. 7 minutes had passed. I was clock watching and when you do that time may as well stand still. I marched on.

To help ease the time factor I took videos of myself speaking some of my thoughts. I noted that you don't feel lonely but when you finally get to talk to someone you just talk and talk. I've had to stop myself a few times mid flow with people because my stories overlap and it gets confusing. That's because I'm trying to say everything at once. It also occurred to me that when I left Lands End people thought it crazy, I moved up the country and crazy turned to amazing, moved up again and amazing turned to impressive. Today I got a "good luck" without even telling the person what I was doing. I can only guess that by the time I reach John O'Groats I will tell people what I am doing and they'll say "well, you picked a nice day for it" and they'll stroll off.

My watch was now speeding up, great! I'd got through the lull. I then entered Clifton which proudly states on it's village sign "last Battlefield on English Soil 1745". I wondered if this was a good thing or bad thing. Does this mean Clifton is a peace loving area or does this mean Clifton is long overdue a scrap? It turns out this is the place the Duke of Cumberland's army caught up with Bonnie Prince Charlie's Highlanders as they retreated from Derby. So ensued a bloody battle where the Duke came out tops... or so the sign said in the middle of the village.

I reached Penrith early but bruised and battered. My body is under enormous pressure to consistently perform this 8 hour walk, day in day out but I do also feel stronger, in mind and body. A good rest tonight will mean I'm all set for Carlisle tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 26 - Kirkby Lonsdale to Tebay (20 miles)

I just lied. It's not 20 miles, more like 19 IF I'd taken the easy route. I'm on a 1000 mile walk, why would I take the easy route? Maybe to save my legs from exploding? Yes, well I should have taken the quick easy route but I tried to be clever and attempted one of my awesome shortcuts!

Everything looked great, I'd planned a route that would take me off of the main road again and see me at a PC stop at roughly half way (what does PC stand for? It's the two most important letters on an Ordnance Survey map - Public Convenience). The route was also only a slightly longer distance. Perfect.

I'd bought a Landranger map yesterday for today's route. I'm not being geeky here by using it's correct name, I've used it's name because "Landranger" maps are a different scale to Explorer maps (the maps up until yesterday were all Explorer's). Landranger = 1:50,000 scale; Explorer = 1:25,000 scale. This was crucial in today's gaff. At my halfway stop point the footpath on my Landranger map dotted itself merrily across a little stream. Had I had an Explorer map I would have seen the little stream was in fact a 30 meter wide river and the map would have also shown a termination to one footpath and a start to another on the opposite bank.

I tried to cross the river. Shoes off, socks off, in I went. We don't live in the Bahamas and that means our waters run slightly cooler than theirs does. My feet nearly froze right there. It's the fastest I've moved for the last 3 weeks as I left that water. Nothing for it, I had to go round.

Consulting the map (more carefully this time!) I could see the next crossing point was an old disused railway line only half a mile or so away. I set off cursing the fact I was back tracking. Only a little way back I saw another public footpath leading off in the general direction of the way I wanted to go. This time I wasn't tempted! I stuck to my plan and headed for the old railway line. This was easy to find as you can imagine and with a fresh spring in my step, due to the fact I was once again heading forwards, I whistled my way down the tracks as if I were doing a screen test for Stand By Me.

My happy mood suddenly evaporated. In front of me stood a giant metal fence complete with heavy metal door, with no way round it, blocking the bridge I'd travelled to use. This was a disaster! I looked at the map. The next crossing was so far away it would be quicker for me to turn back and go the original way. I would lose at least 2 hours walking time. I was gutted. I slumped to the ground with a heavy heart. My "easy" day had turned into a nightmare. I put my hat over my eyes and tried to collect myself. My feet were already throbbing... Nightmare.

"Alright mate? Lost?"

What the deuce?!? I looked up and a lumberjack (I kid you not) was standing at the big metal door. The door was open! He'd opened it! I'm not sure how much tree work goes on around these old bridges but I'm guessing not a lot. The chances of this guy working in this area on this day at this time must be pretty minuscule. Rushing as best as I could to my feet I explained my plight and this gate keeper from God said "you're not supposed to use this but I can't see why not. I didn't say it was okay if you get caught though!" and he waved me through. Unbelievable.

When I was in Holme in The Fleece Inn a few days ago, a couple of women came and sat with me. We chatted and they explained they had done a pilgrimage type walk in Spain. They said when they were on their Camino they had been told that what you need, the Camino will provide. Since they told me this I have had very strange things happen on my own Camino. I'm not knocking it but it is very strange... and reassuring.

My walk led me into a huge valley with armies of Goliath's standing either side of me. I was 220 meters up and the mountains were 400 meters above me. I felt very humble. It was like they were the sentinels of The Dales. Monitoring every inch of it's border. Only the brave should enter. My path wound through the valley, not daring to breach 250 meters.

The rest of the day went without incident. RAF jets both old and new were on training runs and they use the canyon type surroundings for their manoeuvres. This was a treat as every now and then these noise machines would rush by and send the pulse racing. It was almost like you could reach up and touch them because they were so low. For a while I was a little boy again imagining myself in the cockpit 'pulling G's' and fighting off the enemy. Being scrambled to save the day. Life was and is good.

I finally arrived in Tebay and my feet are throbbing, I'm feeling shattered and weak, but I am happy.

Tomorrow I'll be stuck to the A roads until I find a map shop! I'm guessing that means no fighter planes and no strange happenings but we will see!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day 25 - Hellifield to Kirkby Lonsdale (24 miles)

The day started with Jan & Barry Hills @ Chapel Farm B&B treating me to a delicious breakfast made primarily from local produce. Jan & Barry's kindness was extraordinary. I can't thank them enough. I left with clean clothes, a full belly, and a warm heart. chapelfarm b&b take a look, fantastic place and fantastic people. Thank you Jan & Barry.
Off I struck in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale along the A65. This route had to change quickly. The A65 is hellish to walk on! If you walk End to End do NOT follow my path! Not at this section anyway. I noted I could take a minor road that turned into a bridle way and also mirrored the A65, albeit at a higher altitude. It was a no brainer, I turned off the A65 ASAP and headed for the hills. Within minutes I started to feel the fear subside. My life no longer in imminent danger of expiring I started to enjoy myself again. I passed to Yorkshire gents who took an interest in what I was doing. Immediately they dug deep and donated to Richards Appeal. I thanked them and we parted company.
I walked into Settle and headed for the Information Centre where I picked up a map for my next leg of this journey. Foolishly I've left my other maps in Cinderford (sorry Uncle Fred and Aunty Pat could you let me know the numbers of the maps that are with you please?) With delight I could see I could spend a lot of time away from the busy A road.
I arrived in a little place called Austwick and I was due a break. It was 4 hours in to the day. I found a convenient bench and sat with my pack still on. Now it was lighter since shifting the extra weight the other day it wasn't such a chore having it attached to me. I leant back and tilted my hat to shield my eyes. "have you come to a standstill?" I removed my hat and opened my eyes to see a couple walking down the road. I'd passed them earlier and now they asked me how I was doing. I told them what I was doing and they immediately offered me a cup of tea "we only live up there", but it was more than o could ask for. The couple were heading in the other direction to their home, they were obviously off out somewhere. We chatted and indeed they were off out. Their son David Holme had been involved in an accident 26 years previously and at the age of 20 this couple had lost David. They were off to tend his grave. It struck a chord with me for obvious reasons and how everything that has and is happening could have turned out so differently. The lady reached into her pocket and gave the contents of it. I said my farewells and really felt for this couple. "not forgotten" is what they said he was and I went to pay my respects at David's grave.
Moving on and it started to rain. I've been really lucky with the weather so far but today I got a good soaking. It really didn't concern me though, all I had to do was look around me. Stunning scenery everywhere I looked. How can you be miffed with such delights around you?
As I write this I'm half a mile from my campsite. There will be no food near there so I've stopped to fill up on fish and chips at Whoop Hall. Great name.
Tomorrow sees me heading due North once again. Scotland I'm nearly with you!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Day 24 - Haworth to Hellifield (21 miles)

I woke this morning with a start "dam! I'm late!!" I had even asked for breakfast 15 minutes earlier than was originally suggested and now I was late! I scrambled around for my phone to see the time... 2:30am. I shook the dream away and tried to relax again but the wheels of thought were in motion. I started thinking about my route, how long it will take, will I finish on time, where to book next or rather where to let my family know where to book next, should I take The Pennine Way? etc etc

The last question I answered with simple time vs distance. 14 miles on the road equalled 18 miles on The Tops. Time I didn't have would be lost so a tough decision made easy, The Pennine Way will have to wait for another time. I'll be back for you though!

I did get back to sleep and I did wake at the right time and things started to settle with me. I'd made another decision based on what Mick and Gayle (See Day 18) had suggested - if I had a pile of my pack that was definitely in, and a pole that was 'maybe', be ruthless with the 'maybe' pile and send it home. I was ruthless and a cull was made. I shaved a whopping 11lbs off of the weight of my pack! I'd also sent home my walking boots. They'd been passengers for too long and the Achilles tendon problems were returning because I'd worn the boots one whole day (yesterday). This meant I needed more shoes so before my walking day started I went to Keighley and bought a pair of Brasher shoes. I was amazed to find I could do 20 miles on a pair of shoes 'out of the box' with no harm to my feet. Looks like I'd made a good buy. Unfortunately they're discontinued so I'll not be able to get anymore but hey ho, there will be other good buys.

By the time I returned to Haworth fir the start of today's walk it was noon. This was easily the latest I'd started one of my walks. I needed to make tracks, I usually like having 10 miles under my belt by lunch time.

It started with a huge descent into Sutton-In-Craven. I was dreading the bottom of this giant hill. After all, what goes down has generally meant it must go up again thus far. Only this time it didn't. This time the roads made for gentle inclines and declines. My speed leapt up and before I knew it I'd bagged 13 miles. Nice! It was at this point I joined one of my beloved canal walks. The Liverpool and Leeds canal went through Gargrave and linked up the other side with the road I was going to walk on. Perfect. I do love canals. I think it might be the boat names "Excalibur", "Merlin", "The Amy May", "No 4". Okay maybe not the last one but generally the names make the boat dear. Someone thought of the names. It could be a loved one, a historical character, a place, a book, a pet, anything. All of them are personal to someone who obvious cares for the vessel. There's a lot of pride on those waterways.

Unfortunately I had to leave the canal. Unfortunate because I like canals but also unfortunate because I was now on a very fast, narrow, A65. I spent the remainder of the walk playing with traffic but it made me walk faster and I got to Hellifield in 7 hours or thereabouts.

I'm staying at Chapel Farm run by Jan and Barry Hills. It's one of those magical places for me. I feel very comfortable and relaxed, not to mention welcome. This is definitely somewhere I would recommend for people to stay if in the area. The other great thing is (fanfare sounds) I am at the half way point! It's no longer can I do it, I CAN walk still so no reason my body should complain any louder than it has been doing.

Tomorrow I set off on the nasty A65 again and keep walking! Unsure of my destination as yet.

One last thing before I sign off - in answer to Cindy's question regarding singing. I'm not sure where this "sing loud" has come from!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 23 - Marsden to Haworth (21 miles approx)

Today I met a couple at breakfast that were doing The Pennine Way and I neglected to get their names or contacts so first off hopefully you are reading this and could you leave a comment so I could possibly see how you got on/are getting on with it.

Something else I need to mention is if you'd like to see some pictures from my travels you can befriend me in Facebook and peruse LEJOG images at your leisure.

Lastly on the 'admin' front I want to say thank you for the comments you leave. I'm not being rude by not replying, I am just technically unable to respond from my iPhone. Sorry and thanks all at the same time!

Right! Onto today. I was treated to stunning views after stunning views today (hence why I'd like you to see some of the pictures on FB). I really didn't know what to do with myself at one point, I sat, looked, tried to drink in the phenomenal surroundings. So so stunning. These continued all the way from Marsden to Haworth. I took the road route because I am tied by time to get to John O'Groats in an allotted amount of time. I would implore any person thinking of doing End to End to spend more time ON The Pennine Way itself. You will not be disappointed.

I travelled light today thanks to Bobby Thandi (very good friend and serial 'stag-member') who took my non-essentials to my next port of call. It's made me think about what I am carrying and do I REALLY need that stuff? I think not so tomorrow I will send back home the excess weight. 45lbs is WAY too much to carry over 1000miles up and down hills. It's also dangerous on some of the descents, it tries to topple you over. Not fun!

I'm going to cut the journey story short (suffice it to say I am a very happy man having seen the sights I've seen today). I want, instead to talk about my support team.

People have asked if I am doing this solo. The answer is yes and no. I am walking solo and 'out there' on my tod but could I have done this without my family and friends? Simple answer is no.

Everything from encouragement to map purchasing to hotel/B&B booking all of this has been done by family and friends. You the person reading this blog, you let me know someone is there. So I'm not REALLY alone. Physically yes, but not emotionally. For that I want to say thank you. Without your help and support this would have failed within a week. Thank you.

Another thank you goes to Mark Hutchinson who is MD of Harrison and Clough ltd. My brother Adie used to work for this company and he says (I quote) it's the "Nicest company I have EVER worked for" and I can tell why. I have never met Mark but he has secured me a stay in an inn in Haworth. Thank you Mark, it's very much appreciated.

Tomorrow I was going to dabble with "The Tops" again. I think a few miles beyond Gargrave will see 20+ miles out. While the body is still not broken why not use it?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Day 22 pt 2 - The Fleece Inn

Sitting outside The Fleece Inn and feeling pretty happy with the "rest day" effort, I waited for a bus into Huddersfield. The sun shone and a pint of Banks's wet my whistle. I'd been sat there thinking about the previous 24 hours events when who should show up but Mr Whiteley and family and friends. 400+ miles in and I think I may have found the nicest people ever. We all sat and chatted (my bus sailed by - oops, missed that!) and generally passed the time of day. It was so nice to be able to sit, chat, and laugh with other people (I don't recommend sitting, chatting, and laughing on your own - the men in White coats will be round.)

Michael Addis donated £20; Jitka Roberts and John Holroyd donated £20; and Roy Farrar put £5 in the appeal. I'd asked people to note their names down and I'm not sure who wrote "tight arse!" next to Roy's name but it's simply not true. Every penny going to this appeal helps massively so I thank them all. Not only for your contribution financially but for putting a smile on my face. You are great people. I'll be back one day to buy you a pint in The Fleece!

Day 22 - "Rest day" Marsden to Holme (9 miles)

Okay so 9 miles isn't really resting but it's not pushing the miles I have been. A little over 3 hours on "The Tops" and this lovely little ramble is done.

I'm back at The Fleece Inn (fantastic company and food here!) enjoying a pint of Banks's then it's on s bus to Huddersfield for a spot of shoe shopping and hopefully meeting up with a mate - Bobby Thandi who has kindly offered to Sherpa my bag to my next drop off point. I'm not sure exactly where that is yet but basically 20 ish miles north of Marsden! Cheers Bobby.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Day 21 - Birch Vale to Holme (20.5 miles)

Today has been a mixed day but mainly a fantastic one. All because of stunning views and nice people.

Breakfast was later than other days and threw me out of sorts. I left The Waltzing Weasel an hour later than I'd been starting on previous days but no matter, it's all about putting one foot in front of the other. Let's get going!

Within a few miles I bumped into a guy out walking his daughters dog. He'd moved near to the Pennines after his Father had passed away. The Pennines were his gym. He guided walked with me and guided me to William Clough. I later worked out a Clough is like a gorge cut out by water. Until I worked that out I was climbing William Clough and I was thinking if Mr Clough knew that a walk way was to be named after him he'd be proud!

I reached the top and my next encounter occurred. This was my inauguration on The Pennines and I didn't want to go wrong. I just need confirmation that Mill Hill were near by. A group of walkers appeared from the direction I thought Mill Hill was so I asked them. Indeed I was right but it sparked a conversation. The gentleman shook my hand and genuinely wanted to know what was going on. I left him feeling very happy.

At mill hill it was a right hook heading north. The ground had levelled out and the walking was good. A fellow walker caught up with me and I stopped to allow him to pass. Encounter number 3. Again a really genuine guy who had done masses of walking and really wanted to know my story. We walked and talked until the A57. A natural Pennine way break. I needed to change into my boots. I could feel the stones through my running shoes and looking at the soles I could see why. They were done! 300+ miles had taken their toll. I changed and bode farewell to my walking partner.

The way was a little confused at one point and I took a right instead of staying straight on. This was quickly rectified when another friendly walker helped me out. No real time lost. I headed towards Torside Reservoir.

The going was good but slow. Flies and a thin path were causing me to slow. I'm not a fan of heights and this was making me slightly dizzy. I ploughed on albeit very slowly. I got to the reservoir but after looking at my Garmin I was deflated. I'd only done 13 miles and had been going 6 hours. Not good. The descent had slowed me a lot. The pain in my toes had made me slow to a crawl. Descending is more painful that ascending.

A quick call to my brother and we decided (begrudgingly from me) that I should take the road from here on for today and pick up the miles another day. Grrrr! I wasn't happy. I stomped off, cursing the pain in my feet. How dare they slow me?!

The Holmes Moss Transmitting station stands at 1716 feet above see level. This I know because I read the sign as I passed it. I was determined to make time up and had marched up the 1700 foot climb at double pace. I was exhausted but no stopping! I needed to make the time up! The road route I had picked up would mean a 29 mile day!

On the decent from the Transmitting station I was in agony. The descent was crucifying my feet. I hobbled into Holme and saw a pub. No argument, I was in like Flynn!

Chatting to a local he said the walk across The Pennines from here to where I was due to stay is a really nice walk but it would be late if I did it now. Probably would be descending in the dark. Best to do it another day was the advice. Decision made I was walking on my day off. Encounter four and the people were getting nicer. Shortly followed encounter five - John Whiteley.

John is a fantastic guy. He noticed the pack and we chatted about what I was doing and why. Immediately he added £20 to the Richards Appeal pot but he also had some great stories of what he has done and it was obvious to see this was a guy who loved his challenges! John even offered a place to stop for the night, bought me a tasty pint and was generally just really really nice. They don't make many like Mr Whiteley but I'm starting to think they've nearly all been deployed to 'The North'. I'm generalising a fair bit here but the country seems to be like a kindness barometer - the further north you go, the kinder people get.

I'm walking on my day off but hopefully it will be in new shoes and a short walk at a leisurely pace. This will allow time for me to take in the stunning scenery and hopefully meet more nice people.

Tomorrow - Digsley Reservoir to Marsden.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Day 20 - Leek to Birch Vale (24 miles)

Last night I loaded up on tasty carbs at Primo Piano Pizzeria in Leek as recommended by the Manager at my stay for the night - Peak Weavers. I also wolfed down a hearty breakfast before setting off for the day. I'd been warned that I had a huge hill to climb heading where I was heading - into The Peaks.

Today was going to test my stamina. I'd noted that I had 23 miles with large hills and still with a full 44lb pack. I broke it down to 2 parts - pre Buxton and post Buxton.

The first hill I came to I assumed was the big hill I'd been warned about. I attacked it hard and within a few minutes I was breathing hard. Within another few minutes I was sweating but I pushed harder and reached the top. HA! 'big hill'?! Pah! I'd nailed it... Or so I thought. A mile later I rounded a corner and saw the biggest hill ever disappearing into the distance. "ah" I thought, "they meant THIS big hill!" I attacked this one slowly, head down, plod, plod, plod. When I reached the top I took a chance to stop and breath. It was then I looked about me properly. All I can say is 'stunning'! I was in beautiful surroundings, breathing fresh fresh air, watching birds of prey circling. Fantastic. I pushed on.

4 hours in and I'd not gone far. I reached the highest store in England (apparently) Flash Bar Stores and Coffee Shop. I stopped for a rest and a refuel. I wasn't going to make yesterday's mistakes again. 20 minutes later I was back on the road.

Fast forward and I reached Buxton - 13 miles done. I stopped only briefly here as time was starting to work against me. I'd worked out at the rate I was going I'd be on the road for 10 hours. I pushed on having spied a short cut on my map that Google hadn't. It would take me through a golf course but I'd be careful not to interrupt anyone. When I got to the cut through I immediately regretted it. I was a direct route but directly up. I was climbing and climbing. When I came out of my shortcut I was gasping for breathe but I was ahead of where I was going to be. A shortcut yes but at a cost. I should be more careful. Slow and steady will win this race.

I headed up an old disused road that went on for miles. I took me away from everything. No traffic, no people, no sound. I sat. I enjoyed. This was peace. Whilst I sat and pondered life, the universe, and everything I also thought I'd see if I could find another shortcut to Birch Vale. I'd found one and this time no ridiculous climbing. Having triple checked my route I set off back to civilisation.

I want to take this moment to confess I think I may have an unhealthy fascination with canals and their boats. I say this because I stumbled across a basin in Buxworth. As soon as I saw s canal boat I thought "Canal! Canal = Tow path = flat ground". I immediately consulted my map, how had I missed this? I changed my route immediately and loved the decision. Flat ground! My legs were loving it! 20 miles and still feeling strong.

I needed to peel away from the canal so I could get back on track for my B&B. Part of my walk back on track took me under a railway line. Nothing amazing about that you may think but I was nearly on top of the point where a bridge should be but I couldn't see it, then I looked up. Through the tree branches I could see a huge old bridge towering above me. Another amazing sight.

The canal diversion had cost me an extra mile but it was well worth it for the flat and the bridge alone.

Lots happened today but I can't really convey all of it. In summary though - we live in a beautiful country if you're reading from the UK, and if you're reading from elsewhere you really should visit. Come and see the sights. Grab a map and start walking, it's that easy. I guarantee you'll find something interesting.

Tomorrow will hopefully be a shorter day as my legs ended the day aching.

Marsden here I come.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Day 19 - N Abbots Bromley to Leek (21 miles)

Today I struggled. I woke at Gayle and Mick's place feeling refreshed but anxious. This anxiety has been with me most mornings and is almost certainly because I am doing +20 miles per day. Mick and Gayle fed me and then Gayle drove me to my pick up/drop off point. I donned my pack (which, incidentally, we weighed. It topped the scales at 44lbs! Some streamlining required I think) and set off for Leek.

Today was going to be a bit of minor roads and A-roads which is fine. I would say though if anyone else tries the End to End experience you should plan not to use roads and you should take longer to do it than 2 months. I currently feel I am rushing it and although I am seeing many beautiful places and things I am sure there is oodles that is passing me by. But back to today...

Like I said I struggled. Within 30 minutes I was grumpy, not really grumpy but on the cusp of becoming very grumpy. I obviously knew this was futile and silly but I couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me. I do know my walking poles kept slipping from their bungie housing on my pack which made them irritating. I took a moment on the side of the road and tried to sort the poles. They weren't playing ball so I did what any juvenile would do and had a tantrum! The sticks landed in the hedge and I immediately thought "idiot". As I'd let the poles get to me this made me more grumpy. I'm starting to think I could probably have an argument with myself if you put me in a box. I decided what was best was to keep walking until this feeling subsided. Sticks retrieved and back in their bungie home I set off.

I reflected on the last few weeks, on how lucky I am, on Richards plight, on my Dads condition, on my daughter and not seeing her as much as I'd like, on relationships. And then I stopped myself. I realised negative emotions were getting to me. This was all part of the weird feeling I started with. I had to power through this. First walk break came and went, I didn't want to stop. Lunch came and went, I still didn't want to stop, I had to walk this feeling off. 16 miles and I spoke to my brother Adie. I explained I feeling like it was getting to me but I was okay. I knew this was going to be one of those days. After the call I started getting feedback from my feet to tell me to stop. A convenient bench appeared and I sat, released my pack, tilted my head back, and promptly fell asleep. This is not the first this instant sleep has hit me and when I woke 5 minutes later I realised my whole days mood was because of tiredness. 20 miles a day carrying 3 extra stone is a lot of punishment for the body and exhaustion builds up. Rest days are important!

I felt really happy that I'd found the root of the problem and took to the road. The 20 minute break had done me wonders! A spring was back in my step and a smile returned to my face. I felt happy that I'd worked through the problem. Okay it had taken 6 hours but I got there. The next few miles sailed by, normal service had been resumed.

As far as the walking goes the terrain is getting hilly again bit they aren't having the impact Devon had. These are much more enjoyable!

I've arrived at today's B&B in Leek and I'm famished! (I don't recommend skipping meals especially when you are doing upwards of 120 miles a week, not clever!) I'm off to the local Italian to load carbs galore into my body.

If today sounds like a downer it wasn't, it was just hard. Other people have much much harder battles in their life, my day was nothing but a bit of exhaustion. Rest days 'cure' that. I need to remind myself there are others out there trying really hard to get better and I know they will (Richard I'm thinking of you) but you'll need to take your time. When I get back hopefully you can take me for a beer and tell me all about your journey.

Tomorrow I think I'm heading out of Staffordshire. Another county closer to the goal!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Day 18 - Featherstone to N Abbots Bromley (21.5 miles approx)

Day 18. Today I was due to visit a place where many famous people have hailed from. Abbots Bromley. Well okay, no one leaps off the page when mentioning "fame" and "Abbots Bromley" but I had heard oodles about it.

To get there I had to pass through the likes of Shapshill, middle hill, Wedge's Mills, Cannock, and Rugeley. All pretty nondescript but that was okay. Not every place is going to be stunning or blow me away. They were... functional.

I wanted a good nose around Abbots Bromley so I decided to save up my breaks and have them all in one go at "Abbots". I made my way along the B5013 and crossed the Blithfield reservoir. On the other side I sat to tie a shoelace and was asked the usual inquisitive questions "where, why, when, how, are you crazy?" and as I was talking someone else chimed in and asked if I were Matt Taylor. This is the 2nd person to mention him to me on my travels. Who is this guy? I made to leave but left the details of Richards Appeal.

It was a short few miles to Abbots and when I arrived it was via "Goose lane" which was ironic because the person who told me all about Abbots has the nickname 'Goose'.

Abbots Bromley is really nice. It's got it's fair share of pubs but it also has "old town" written all over it. One of the houses is called "Gaol House". I'm sure the inhabitance now are much better behaved than it's historical name suggests. I stopped in The Crown and Jess served up a pint of Landlords. When I mentioned what I was up to I got the usual quizzical look, then the follow up questions, followed by the 'impressed but your mad' comments. To be expected. I feel a bit mad now. I didn't at the start but as time is going on I'm thinking.. this is a looooong way!!

It's good though because I get to see some fantastic places and life slows to a pace where you can take things in. You also get to meet some truly amazing people. Take tonight for example. I am staying with Mick and Gayle who picked up on the fact I was walking End to End via this blog which is advertised on Mark Moxons website. Gayle and Mick contacted me and offered me food, a bed for the night, the use of their washing machine, more food, and they threw in loads of information pertaining to The Walk. These are kind people and this is something we discussed tonight. You meet people when you do these types of thing, good people. It really has rekindled my faith in humanity. As Gayle said the news would have you believe the world is full of hoodies and criminals... I simply isn't true. My advice to all is go stick a pair of stout shoes on and hit a trail, path, canal, whatever, but go and enjoy it.

Tomorrow it's off to Leek I believe. The weather sounds like it may be a damp one so quite apt.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Day 17 - Kidderminster to Featherstone (22 miles approx)

I decided the place where I had walked to yesterday and stopped at (North Kidderminster) was no fun. I decided to get a bus from Bewdley into central Kidderminster and take the canal path a bit further than I had done the day previously. Before I continue with todays tale let me rewind to 6:45am and my alarm clock sounding...

I woke to the same indescribable smell I had gone to sleep with. If I hadn't been so tired last night I would have moved to a decent hotel at the drop of a hat, but I didn't. Now I was laying in a dirty room, looking through dirty windows, smelling the dirty air. I could not wait to leave but before I left I HAD to see the effort made for breakfast. In Tripadvisor someone had commented that the food hall was even worse and that the chef looked like lurch. Sure enough he did, and it was, and so I left... To the bus and Kiddi.

The morning walk started perfectly. I was once again fully laden yet I still had a spring in my step (Mr Elliott's work was paying dividends). I think of all the walking I've done the tow paths have been the most relaxing. There's no reward as such with them but you can't fail but to be fully relaxed after a 10 mile jaunt along quiet tow paths. Friendly boaters bidding you a good morning and telling you what a lovely day it is. Just perfect. However this was still a challenge and the meandering was costing me miles so I broke away from the tow path and made my way to Wolverhampton via the sub and main roads.

I'm an avid Wolves supporter and I was really keen to see the home of Wolves style of the beautiful game, Molineux. I kept glancing at my map but all I had was my gps on my phone for most of today and you could only see fine detail if you zoomed in further than I wanted to. I gave up looking for Molineux and promised myself a return there one day soon. As I rounded a corner my jaw dropped. By chance my route had taken me to the front entrance of Molineux! I was delighted! I'm still delighted! I went in and had a good nose around. I could not stop smiling. So so happy. I've promised myself I'll still go back there but next time hopefully with a ticket to a game. For now I had to tear myself away. So happy!

I continued on through Wolvehampton and I watched as a man deliberate tossed his rubbish into a hedge, lit a cigarette, finished a bottle of drink, tossed that in the hedge, then attempted to make a phonecall (which failed probably because the Cro-Magnon man couldn't recall how the noise box worked). I wondered what it is with cities. I'm not saying you don't get litter louts outside of cities but to be so blatant and think it was cool, surely that's got to be some kind of 'display'. I'm not sure what it is and if I work it out well line up The Nobel for me!

Suddenly my senses were being assaulted. Wolverhampton has a tyre making factory. I've worked in some factories in the past but wow. This hummed like nothing I'd smelt before (even at last nights accommodation). Pew, I hastened on and then I was in leafy suburbia once again. The pack weight was starting to make my feet ache. I still had 4 miles to go. Time to dig deep and trudge on.

I arrived in Featherstone at about 5pm and at the Featgerstone Farm house at about 5:15pm. I'd been day dreaming of a little picturesque farm house in stunning surroundings. I nearly cried when I saw it. It was better than my day dream. Rufus let me in and should me to the most comfortable room ever. Complete with a bath. I iced my feet and ankles in the coldest water for 10 minutes then bathed away the rest of the days strains and stresses (like there had been any).

Today was a good day. It was cloudy, it rained, the clouds cleared, the sun shone. The World kept turning as it always does but today... today was a good day.

Tomorrow I head towards Uttoxeter and tomorrow nights accommodation.. Well I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Day 16 - S Worcester to N Kidderminster (20 miles approx)

Today I was once again woken with a full breakfast. I was going to need it because I'd planned to do 25 miles. My Aunty Pat and Uncle Fred had been putting me up (or is that putting up with me?) since last week and sadly it was time for me to leave. I was dropped off at my Cousin Clare's place where their family unit all got in the car with their passenger Walker and we set off for my starting point in south Worcester.

Mark (Clare's husband) walked with me for the first half marathon distance. Walking is great but can be a little monotonous at times so to have a good chat whilst we walked was great. The miles passed quickly and we arrived at Stourport-On-Severn in a speedy 4 hours. Unfortunately on our walk we'd worked out I'd made a schoolboy error in calculating the walking distance to Bewdley. I'd measured in Km's not miles. This meant I'd only cover around 16 miles if I went to Bewdley, missing my daily 20 mile target. Mark suggested heading to Kidderminster via the canal path and we varified this as a good idea with Marks niece and local PE teacher Gemma Steward. Gemma's relationship with the canal was a close one going by a story she told us! I could then go back to Bewdley and do lesser miles tomorrow when I was fully laden. Up until now my pack was being driven around. (never ever look a gift horse in the mouth!)

We had lunch and parted company. Mark and Clare drove my pack ahead to my Bewdley B&B and I set off on the canal tow path to "Kiddi". What a great idea thus had been. Idyllic setting bled into idyllic setting. Tranquillity reigned.

I got to Kiddi feeling very happy and relaxed. I had to leave the canal path and take, once again, to the A-roads. I was passing through Kiddi when I noticed a memorial to Richard Baxter who it was said "In a stormy and divided age advocated unity and comprehension". Maybe we need another Richard Baxter to sort out this 'rioting' issue?

20 miles done and I decided on the lazy Man's route back to Bewdley. Cab. My cab driver told me how Bewdley was a 'catchem' town (where one of the fish bars gets it's name from) which meant in olden times if a vagrant reached and breached Bewdley then he was free to go as no law was enforced beyond there. Hence Catch them but I fear I may have been sold a tale there. Comments welcome.

I went off to my zero star, non luxury B&B. It was the cheapest I could find and believe me it shows. If ever you are desperate to stay somewhere in Bewdley and The Bridge accommodation is the last place left... sleep on the street. It is laughable what can be passed as accommodation but what do I care? I'm staying for one night, I'm in a bar having feasted on fish and chips, and enjoying a game of footy!

Tomorrow see's me pass through the home of the best football team in the world, albeit a sleeping giant, Wolverhampton.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Day 15 - Rest day

Today I was treated to a session with a minor miracle worker. Alan Elliott MBE is friends with parts of my family since his school days. He offered a physio session for me not only free but he also donated to the appeal.

When I went in to see Alan I had very restricted movement in my legs, ankles, hips as well as the continuing pain in my Achilles tendons. When I left my tendons felt 90% back to 'normal', my range of movement elsewhere restored to how it was before I started this challenge. Amazing work for which I can't thank him enough.

On a sadder note tomorrow I leave Gloucestershire for the last time during this challenge which means leaving my family behind. It's been a long time since I've seen everyone from here and I'm so happy to have had the chance to see everyone. They've all been brilliant to me. Thank you for being there for me. You've turned my frown upside down!

The route all the way to Jedburgh has all but been decided. Tomorrow I'll be in Bewdley, Tuesday in Featherstone, Wednesday in Abbots Bromley, Thursday undecided but heading towards Chapel-En-Le-Frith for Friday. Next weekends stop is yet to be decided.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Day 14 - Coney Hill, Gloucester to S Worcester (26.5 miles)

The day started like any other. I was sore, limbs had to loosen, within half a mile I was into my stride. Central Gloucester gave way to big suburban houses, which in turn gave way to smaller abode with country dwelling names "Rose Cottage", "Jasmine Cottage", and a personal favourite "Twigsworthy Field". Okay that last one was a road but still a great name.

I felt energised. The countryside was stunning with 360 degree views, the Malvern hills in the distance slowly creeping down my left as I progressed. There was a light breeze and cloud cover. Perfect walking conditions. I could feel perspiration building under my new printed tshirt that stated I was "Lands End to John O'Groats". I checked my Garmin to see how I was getting on. I had to double check because I'd done 3 hours walking in 2 hours. This just didn't make sense but it was true. I was tearing along!

I arrived at Tewksbury in need of refreshment. The local pub promised "Coffee and cake £2.95". I went in and asked for my deal. "Sorry, no cake left". It was only 11am. How much cake did they have in the first place? Was this prize winning cake? Did everyone queue at 10, just to get their hands on this delicious cake? "Just a coffee then please". I was handed a tiny pipette of coffee squirted into a thimble "that'll be £2.50, please". I didn't argue but I made sure that coffee lasted half hour and also made sure I used their wifi for the entire time. It was actually nice to sit for a while.

Off I set again and admired Tewksbury. In 1471 a battle had taken place that was still commemorated today with adobe floral display. Read here for more I did and got right into the feel of the town. It really felt like it was in some kind of strange time warp with parts clambering for the 20th century whilst the rest languished in it's comfortable past. I could have stayed there for hours. A really really nice place. I highly recommend it.

I moved on though back into countryside and I was still making excellent time. I dared to imagine completing a marathon distance and as time shuffled on and the miles crept up I decided that the marathon was on!

I tried to call my Aunty and Uncle who were due to pick me up once again but too late, they were already here and I'd only(!) done 21 miles. I asked if they minded if I did 5 more miles. They agreed gladly. I whipped off the bottom part of my trousers making them the rugged Man's marathon shorts, left the relatives with all my other belongings and started running... well I didn't want to keep them waiting any longer than was necessary did I?

It felt awesome, I felt light, in control, and best of all pain free. The perfect end to a perfect day. With a rest day due tomorrow a physio session has been lined up for me and then I'll be plotting my route to the end. The value of being in a bed and carrying less is now tangible so I'll be looking for places to stay (youth hostels, B&B, etc) then ditching the camping gear.

I felt like I could have kept going but no point damaging myself. I finished on a complete high. Brilliant. The week has gone full circle but I am pleased to say team Walker/Niblett have turned the week into one of great success.

Thank you.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Day 13 - Falfield to Coney Hill, Gloucester City (20.25 miles approx)

Day 12 - (no that's not a typo) what I forgot to mention yesterday was the A38 seems to defy the laws of physics. I'm sure it goes up more than it goes down! Anyway, onto...

Day 13 - Well what a difference it's made to be amongst family. I feel very much like I can take this challenge by the scruff of the neck and show it who's boss. Last night I was made to feel very much at home and immediately comfortable. No putting a tent up or wondering what to eat, or where to shower. Just perfect. This followed on to the morning where a cooked breakfast greeted me as well as a fresh pot of tea. It definitely sets you up for the day.

My Uncle Fred and Aunty Pat drove me back to Falfield (which was much further than I'd reckoned, Sorry Uncle and Aunty!) and I started off in the direction of Gloucester.

Today was all going to be about seeing how my body reacted to the lack of weight and I can say it didn't disappoint. I was knocking miles off so quick I thought my Garmin watch/GPS tracker was going wrong. Double checking with the maps told me I was just fast on pace.

The day was pretty uneventful so I'll wrap up the walking part quickly. Gloucester definitely feels homely to me and just a really nice place. I ended up finishing slightly off course because I'd blindly followed the A38 - as I had been following for so many days prior to this one. This isn't an issue however as it's only slightly off course. It's a bit morbid but the day terminated at a cemetery. These places often = benches and a place for the weary to rest. When I hot to the cemetery I moved to the main road area so as to make my pick up place easier.

Uncle Roger and Aunty Jenny picked me up, immediately offered me tea which I accepted with delight, then it was off to 'Go Outdoor' to find some new socks, compeeds, and inserts for my walking boots. I'm going to have to put them back on eventually. I'm just concerned that they may be causing the tendon trouble. We will see.

So after a quick stop to pick up some fresh clothes (ironed as well! Luxury) my cousin Ian took me for the best thing for guy in my condition. I was treated to a sauna, swimming pool, steam room, and jacuzzi. Could I ask for anymore? I think not. What a great way to finish the day. That and paella back at Aunty Jennys and uncle Rogers place.

Day 13 - unlucky for some, great for me.

Tomorrow sees Tewksbury come and go and the home of some pretty decent sauce appear on the horizon.

Bring it on!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Day 12 - S Bristol to Falfield (19.5 miles approx)

Day 12 started early. I'd checked the weather report the night before and I knew rain was coming. I wanted to be packed up before then.

I was getting everything in place when I heard the patter of rain drops on the tent. I went into over drive stuffing things here, there, and everywhere. The rain started to hammer down. I bailed out of the tent, quickly tore up the pegs, removed the one supporting collapsable pole, stuffed the pegs and pole in any place I could find, grabbed all my kit - including loose tent - and made for driest place I could think of... the shower block.

In the shelter of the shower block I could prepare myself much better for the wet weather. I covered everything, and triple checked everything. Now to try on the poncho. It of course fitted but I did get caught by a guy who'd come in to use the loo doing my Clinton Eastwood impression in the full length mirror. I made my excuses and left.

Leaving the premises was the first challenge. The big iron gates were closed and a number keypad next to the gates suggested I needed to input a code to open them. I wandered around the grounds and wondered what it might be "0000?" I thought. Surely not, I went back to the gate, tried four zeroes, pressed enter then told myself off for being dumb. There must have been easily £1,000,000 worth of cars in the premises. They weren't going to protect them with four zeroes!

I eventually found some workmen on site. I explained my predicament and asked if they might know the code. The one guy thought then said "1,2,3,4, ah but then you have to press ENTER". I scolded myself a second time for not trying the obvious.

Finally free I set off for Bristol. Bristol is nice enough. It's very large and the people are friendly enough. A strange thing happened. I was offered a free copy of the Metro. This hadn't happened to me since I left London and it put a smile on my face that I was in a large enough place that the Metro deemed it necessary to peddle their paper.

Another thing that happened was a drunk man (yes drunk by 9:30am) stopped me and said "Are you that guy doing all that walking?" Taken aback I said "to where?". "all over the place" was his reply. I humoured him and told him it was me. I'm pretty sure my blog hasn't reached the heady heights of headline story, especially considering the recent unrest (what's THAT all about?? - rhetorical question). However, Mr Drun Kard seemed very happy to have met 'The Walker'.

I was now soaked through but I didn't let my spirits get dampened. I plodded on mile after mile. Before I knew it I was crossing underneath where the M4 and M5 intersect one another. This felt like a landmark to me. The M4 cuts a fairly straight line across the lower part of England. That section was now done and most of my travelling would be heading North now instead of East North East.

I had to cross the M4 again such is the A38's want and as I did I looked to my left. There in the distance was the Severn Bridge. Another landmark that brought a big smile to my face.

The sky's held onto their rain and I stopped for a break. My feet were throbbing. I found a bus shelter and took the pack off and shoes, and socks to let my poor feet breath. I leaned back and closed my eyes. It felt like ages! I woke with a panic to see a bus full of people staring at me. I felt like a right hobo. I'd only been 'out' for 15 minutes but that was break time over. I got the socks, shoes, and back pack on. Off I went again and finished the day off sitting on a bench in Falfield waiting for my Uncle and Aunty who are being my saviours and putting me up for the night. Awesome.

Tomorrow I will be without back pack as I'll be hopefully staying at the sane place tomorrow night.

I think I am finally starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere. I need to keep hold of this feeling and use it against the 'bad' days.

Day 13 tomorrow and I'm Gloucester bound.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Day 11 - Burnham-on-sea to S Bristol (21 miles approx)

I woke early but didn't leave until 10am because I was allowing my little tent to dry as much as possible. This late departure put me on the back foot. I felt as though I was playing catch up all day. This was no good for the spirits.

I don't mind telling you that today I struggled. Both physically and emotionally. I plugged my headphones in and searched for inspiration. All that came were tunes that reminded me of other people, other places, other times. My mind started questioning what I was doing. Why I was doing it was an easy question to answer and if it hadn't been fir the answer I feel I would be sitting on a train heading to London.

The thing that hooked into me was "if you feel like this on one fifth of the way in, how are you going to feel in four weeks time?" Obviously these negative thoughts were upon me and I didn't have the ability to drown them out. My neck, shoulders, back, hips, thighs, hands(!), knees, ankles, and feet all hurt at the same time. I decided to continue and try to drown everything out. The trudge was on and my only aim was to complete the day. This had stopped being fun.

I'm starting to see something about myself and that is I have good days and bad days (as does everyone) but I haven't found that catalyst that changes thoughts, feelings, attitude into positivity.

I'm really looking forward to spending time around family this coming weekend. Hopefully my maps for the rest of the journey should turn up and I'm looking forward to plotting the next 'chunk' of the trip. One thing is for sure I am looking at the option for ditching the camping aspect and resorting to B&B's. More expensive but to be able to walk straight in somewhere, shower, and get into a bed raises the spirits massively. It also means a lighter pack, earlier starts, earlier finishes.

Whatever I decided I know that today has been one of those Lance Armstrong days (thanks to a friend at work for telling me this) "pain may last a day, a week, a month, a year. Quitting lasts forever". All very true and as long as I am not causing myself long term problems I will not quit. However, speak to any runner and I'm sure they will have a story of a DNF (Did not finish).

On a more upbeat note I stopped at 2 different pubs today (Doom Bars are doing well out of me!) and both times there were lots of questions and interest. It's still a challenge and I think my problem is I stopped looking at it as a challenge. I wanted canal walks and beautiful villages. There will be others across the country and I'll love every second of being in them. That is what today has brought me - appreciation of the 'smooth', because today was rough.

With Bristol just down the road I am hoping I'll be able to call on family by the end of the day.

I promise to have a more upbeat report next time. Until then tah tah!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Day 10 - W Taunton to Burnham-on-sea (21 miles approx)

Phil "The Power" Taylor steps up and throws his first dart... Treble top! His second goes in... Treble top again! (camera zooms in to the treble top). Phil unleashes his third... ONE HUNDRED AN' EEEEEIIIGHTY!!

That's the same as the amount of miles I've completed in total after 10 days. Things are going okay but painfully okay. My ankles are flaring up so much they think they're back in the 60's. Aside from the pain though it's been a steady 21 and a bit miles today.

The good people of Greenacre park have given me a pitch gratis for the night. I pitched immediately and went to ask my new neighbours where the shower block was. During 'normal' conversation now I find myself explaining the purpose of my journey. This time was no different. I led myself away from the nice neighbours and headed for a freshen up.

I emerged cleansed! As I walked back to my pitch the husband of the neighbours intercepted me and asked if I fancied a brew. I nearly tore his arm off. That cuppa has never tasted so good!

I was now changed and ready for food. My next question for the neighbours was where I could get sustenance from. "nearest place is ASDA, down there" and they pointed the direction I had walked in. So off I set with my leg muscles feeling like they were made of iron. Walking was hard. I didn't recall an ASDA but I kept going. A mile and a half later I was ferreting through aisles like a man possessed. My 'lite bite' selection not looking so lite I headed back to basecamp, chopping as I went. It was very clear my eyes had out sized my belly so for the kind gesture of tea the neighbours received melon chunks. A good deal done I've headed to bed!

By the end of tomorrow I should have Bristol in my sights.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Day 9 - SW Tiverton to W Taunton (22.2 miles)

Lesley sent me on my way from an extremely restful hotel where it turns out I was the only guest last night. Peace, quiet and tranquility in big gob fulls. The perfect resting spot.

... and now it was time to move on. I had decided on the canal route out of Tiverton because canals = flat ground. What a delight that Tow path out of there was. 11 miles of meandering clear waters and I only saw about 10 people. The wind was gusting in the right direction too. It was almost like someone 'up there' was giving me a helping hand.

I had to leave the canal finally at Fenacre Bridge near a small place called Great Fossend. Immediately I felt problems occurring. The tendons that hadn't been really tested over the last 11 miles suddenly started complaining. This was not good as the hills I encountered were not that steep. I was struggling. I stopped, removed boots and socks and just stared at my broken feet. What to do? I just didn't know so I covered them again in socks, wrapped the walking boots back around them, and tried to ignore the pain. I kept going until the next hill (not far) and decided a 30 minute break was essential.

During the break I swapped to running shoes as putting the boots back on was just too painful. This was the second of the good ideas of the day. Pain turned to plain discomfort. This was manageable.

I continued on an reached the A 30. A fast road that runs parallel with the motorway. I was back playing matador with the traffic. Not great. Only a few miles on however and a lay-by appeared with a cafe trailer. It was just closing but they guys running it kindly cooked up a delicious cheese burger, served up with a refreshing Fanta, and after hearing what I was up to a free mug of tea appeared. The generosity of people astounds me. If someone is doing something for a good cause there is a switch that flicks in humans. It's not that people are bad normally. It's hard to explain. It's like people suddenly jump on board, they put a friendly arm around you and they say (metaphorically) "I'm with you". Their energy travels with you. It's fantastic, it's primeval. It's a pack thing. I love it.

Tea warming me through I left the International Burger guys and set off for Wellington. I decided to go into the town and search out a chemist. Pain was getting the better of me. I spent a good 15 minutes in Boots and left with a plethora of lotions, potions, ointments, and pills. I always under estimate the power of modern medicine. 2 tablets of Ibuprofen and within an hour the pain that had plagued me all day subsided. I was now at mile 18 and at this stage I'm usually flagging but with my pain gone I felt my stride lengthen, my head rise, and my speed increase. I strode into Taunton on a high (even though I'd passed a pub called The End of the World - what a weird name to call a boozer!). I stopped in a local garage to grab snacks with high calorific and protein content (Mars Refuel is a great drink to have, as is "For Goodness Shake", after a day of calorie burning). The guy behind the counter asked if I'd been far and when I said "155 miles" he stared blankly. I of course explained and he was suitably impressed. I left feeling like I was doing something good, something useful. Is this what I've been looking for? Who knows, only time does.

Now it's time for snoozing. Day 10 beckons.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Day 8 - Rest day. 0 miles

Lesley here at the B&B has sorted me out on this rest day. A cooked breakfast, quiet surroundings, and when I popped down to ask if a sandwich could be rustled up (at 7:30pm) she asked "wouldn't you prefer a roast dinner?". Enough said.

As far as aches and pains go I have a really bad Achilles tendon on my right foot that takes a lot of warming up but I'm sure a 20mile hike will sort it out.

Taunton is next and campsites are scarce so it's another night in a B&B over there.

No real news but I have planned the next few nights at least and expect to see Gloucester (and family!) by Friday evening. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Day 7 pt2 - Zeal Monachorum to SW Tiverton (approx 21 miles)

pt 1 is below pt 2

Lots of little villages and hamlets came and went - the nicest in name and features being Puddington. Thatched houses, large double sized barn doors for the double sized private garage, kids playing in the street, peace and quiet. Nice.

Then came the turning point of the day. The B3137! It's a wide enough road for 2 cars... Just. People barrel along it at Schumacher speed and it's busy. It's the most main road going West out of Tiverton so with hindsight I would have approached Tiverton very differently.

I started to look for a different route but the options were minimal. I happily took to a track that led off into a wooded area. I kept seeing green feed stations by the side of the track and shortly I realised I was in the middle of a pheasant farm. If you've seen Jurassic Park II (or was it III?) and can recall the little dinosaurs running along a beach, pack hunting... well that's how I felt. Apart from the hunting bit, they just threw themselves at me in a blind panic! I ended up in someone's back garden whilst trying to get back out of this wooded area and decided I was better off back on that B road.

I went on for a few more miles but again I experienced too many near misses for comfort (including the Neanderthal in a White van that flicked me the bird and did the coffee shaker whilst pointing his van at me). So it was I found myself, once again, on the nice quiet road that ran parallel to that B road. It was like a million miles away, my mood lifted and I sloped downwards into Tiverton outskirts.

Sue (my Sister-in-law, Richards sister) had booked a B&B for me which is where I find myself now. It's quiet, it has it's own shower, tea/coffee making facilities, and.... a bed. 2 beds in fact. I feel like I've won the lottery. I arrived in a Cornish 4:30 'ish' (I know I'm in Devon but I like this Cornish way of measurement - the 'ish') and I had a shower, unpacked, laid in bed (a bed! With pillows!), and this is where I am staying until tomorrow. I'll then get up, eat, then find my way back to bed because tomorrow is a rest day.

Have a peaceful Sunday all.

Day 7 - Zeal Monachorum to SW Tiverton (approx 21 miles)

So onto day 7 where I fully expected last night that I would be hobbling my way through the day.

I got woken a lot last night due to the fact the Waie Inn camp site is right next to the pub garden. Sounded like someone was lost in the night, stumbling about calling "OPEN!" in that I'm-whispering-but-whispering-loud-enough-so-you'll-hear-me kind of way. I'm not sure what he wanted opened. Maybe his eyes? Who knows? Sleep came eventually...

I woke nice and early. I was being rained on gently. I got myself together which took rather longer than expected. 2 hours to be precise. Lord knows what I was doing. Faffing mainly. I set off at a good time though (8:15) and decided in my head that Tiverton was to be my next stop.

I'd changed the footwear for the day to running shoes as these are much lower cut obviously than boots and this would give my heat rash ankles some air time (glamourous!)

Everyone in Devon that doesn't own a car must be among the fittest people on Gods earth. The hills in Devon go on and on. This is a bad thing even when travelling downwards, especially with a fully loaded pack, because you are constantly 'breaking' which puts huge load on your knees, feet, ankles, shoulders, you name it. If it's carrying a load, that load feels 10x the weight.

For today I had chosen to ignore the pain and do 20 miles just to get to Tiverton, a natural break point.

From ZM I wandered along lovely quiet roads, the rain had stopped, cloud was still covering the sky fully, and the temperature had levelled off to a decent walking temperature. I climbed one incredibly long hill and at the top a sheltered waited with the inscription "quid nobis ardu" which I've been told means "What is hard for us".

Interlude - Richards Appeal

This is a short break in the daily events to ask you the reader to share this blog with anyone you think may enjoy it. It is fun (and painful at times walking!) but the serious side is to help raise awareness and money for Richards Appeal. You can find out more by clicking on "Richard Plummer" on the right or by going to .

Richard is showing signs of recovery but there is a long way to go. The money raised will be going towards paying for the repatriation and medical bills accrued in Bali. Richard is back in a Kent hospital but the money to get him there was loaned to the family using Richards parents (June and Eric) property as collateral. The loaned money needs to be repayed within 3 months or June and Eric will be homeless.

Thank you for reading and please enjoy the blog!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Day 6 - Lewdown to Zeal Monachorum (just under 22 miles)

Today was TOUGH! I woke with painful achillies tendon in my right foot and I've ended the day with heavily swollen ankles and feet due to heat bumps. Who said this was going to be easy? Oh that's right... no one.

I said goodbye to my rocks of support Claire and Darren today and I'm truly solo. I don't mind telling you it was hard emotionally. They've been brilliant these first few days and I can't thank them enough. When I finish it will be because of them.

I saw a group of 17 cyclists taking a break in a lay-by. Full support crew including a massage table! They offered me food and drink and told me they had come from John O'Groats 8 days earlier. They looked in good shape. Not sure I'll be looking the same when I'm 100 miles from the end. I did take heart that they said it is hillier in Devon than anywhere else on their travels which will be a god send.

I think in total I've dine approx 117miles but tomorrow will have to be a short day and a stay in a B&B. I need to go and work out where I'll be. Anyone know any cheap ones 10 miles east of Zeal Monachorum?

Ciao for now. Sorry it's a lame update but pain is taking precedence.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Day 5 - Jamaica Inn to Lewdown (21.18 miles)

Day 5 started with a quick visit to Jamaica Inn to take a picture of a plaque that states "On this spot Joss Merlyn was murdered"! Obviously adding to the spooky surroundings of the place but enough of this sight seeing! I had some lovely miles to gobble up.

An hour or so into the days walk and I realised I hadn't had breakfast. I was being gently reminded by my belly who the boss was. So I started to look for places local and found myself at the Kings Head near Five Lanes if memory serves me well. I was greeted by Joanne and Amy who bent the rules to get me the biggest nicest bacon baguette I've had in ages. They were brilliant not only to me (so not the sympathy vote!) but to every person that walked in they engaged them all. I live and work in London so to me this cordialness never goes unnoticed. Thank you ladies, you set me up for the day.

Belly full, I strode off toward a forest of "Tre's". Everywhere seems to start 'Tre' in that area. Must be like the names ending in 'den' in Kent. If someone could enlighten me that would be ace.

So through the Tre's and onto Launceston. I love Launceston. Oh, just to digress slightly you may notice that I've glossed over Bodmin somewhat. That's because I'm afraid to say I didn't feel very welcome. I'm sure there will be more places in the country like that but when you have so many good things to talk about there's no need to dwell on the not so good. Right! Back to Launceston. A really pretty place with lots of people busying about the place and generally looking very happy with themselves. No doubt because they know they live in wonderful place. If you're reading this, stop now, get in your car, drive to Launceston, say "wow!" and "ah nice!" then leave. Well we don't want to fill the place up too much do we? Less is more and all that.

I spent too much time walking in circles loving the place and got lost. I asked the kind lady in the information centre how to get onto the Two Castles Trail and she furnished me with information a plenty. Off I went. Bye Launceston, I'll be back.

Hills! They came next. Lots of them. Big ones, little ones, some nasty ones but all were conquered (heroically) until I got to Lifton. I could feel myself starting to wain so you can imagine how lifted my spirits were when I got a location document from my brother. This showed me where he and his wife Claire were camped for the night.

I tried to make it all the way there but I had to cut it short by 3.5 miles. My day was done... and so should my washing be now. Until tomorrow Bon nuit.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Day 4 - Castle-an-Dinas to Jamaica Inn (approx 20.75)

A short entry today as I am tired!

20.75 miles done. Lots of off roading today which has left me with gorse scratches all over my legs. Sun burn a plenty as well. Ouch.

I did do a video or 2 which I'll upload when I can. Until tomorrow it is goodnight from me.

Oh, one thing - Jamaica Inn. Lovely place, great food and they have many hauntings here! Apparently a lot of people come to Jamaica Inn thinking it is the pub from American Werewolf in London. Stay off the moors!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Day 3 - Shortlandsend to Castle-an-Dinas (16 miles approx)

Today was due to be a light day of walking but as Darren and I (yes, Darren was fixed for today!) ticked off the miles we decided to go further and further.
We stopped at a fantastic place called Viners Bar and Restaurant at Carvynick's where we were greeted by Cindy Ferguson. Cindy, amongst her other chores, was front of house and pulled a great pint (Doom bars again!)
Cindy has a son and was really chatty with a warm personality. She had recently done a 12 hour relay bike challenge with her son and showed great interest in what we were doing and what I will be doing going forward. On top of showing great interest Cindy and her Son donated £10 each towards the cause. Amazing generosity. If ever you are travelling to the South West UK be sure to drop in to Viners Bar and Restaurant ( great food and drink and hospitality.
Our spirits fully charged we set off towards Bodmin. Again the miles passed but we got to around 12 miles and our short walk was turning into something greater than we expected. Although we trudged on we agreed to call it a day at mile 15.... But...
At mile 15 we were faced with a grass covered public footpath. If we'd stopped there my first steps in the morning would be sodden ones. We decided to do the seemingly short public footpath but it was unkempt and hard going. We had to use my walking sticks to bash a path through but we prevailed! (amazon rain forest it wasn't but it still was not needed at the end of a hard day). Still... 16 miles done today. Success!
Tomorrow I'm going lightweight again but with boots. Hoping for 20+ miles.
Oh, and no chaffing today woohoo!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Day 2 - Hayle to Shortlanesend (20 miles)

The day started with me poking my head out of the door to see thick fog and lots of dampness. Another wet day ahead by the look of it. I dragged myself down to the shower block, freshened up and Darren and I set off for Hayle where we stopped yesterday.
By the time we arrived in Hayle the ground was drying and the fog had lifted. Things were looking up but Darren was broken. We'd decided that I would go solo today but leave the back pack at basecamp. I was wearing my running shoes and was weighing 40lbs less so I had a kind of skip in my step.
The first few miles sailed by and the legs loosened up which allowed a pace of about 3.5 mph (steady!) Not breaking any speed limits but the miles were being ticked off.
I'd decided on 5 miles, rest, 5 miles, rest, etc but I was going so well I decided on 2 hours, rest 15 minutes, 2 hours, rest 30 minutes, 2 hours, rest 15 minutes, 2 hours. 8 hours at this pace should see 22 miles off but it wasn't sustainable. By mile 14 I was feeling it again and thoughts turned to stopping. I continued and reached our base camp in Blackwater near Truro. I changed clothes here into running kit and decided to run the final 6 miles. This would have been far easier if the roads weren't so dangerous. No paths, no bridleways, and no footpaths meant I was dicing with the traffic. I detoured ASAP and started heading to Truro via back roads which were still laden with traffic. I completed the day heavily chaffed about the buttocks(!) but 20 miles to the good.
Looking at Mark Moxons route it seems I've cut 5 or 6 miles off of his route but I can't relax too much just yet. Only a 1050 ish miles to go. Subject to change.
I spoke with someone on the phone today at lunchtime ish and it was great to hear her voice. Lifted the spirits.
Tomorrow may be a short day as I am suffering with the chaffing but we will see. Darren was broken today but is mended for tomorrow.